I wasn't sure if I would go to see Leonard Cohen; I like him but he's not my favourite artist in the world, and I wasn't convinced I wanted to spend about three times the price of a standard concert ticket. Then I read rysmiel's review of an earlier date in the tour, and I was pretty convinced I had to see it. And then SA asked me to join her, and I definitely can't say no to attractive women, especially when they are suggesting something I want to do anyway.
Globen is slightly amazing; it's really a sports stadium that sometimes gets used for big concerts, and it seats up to 16000. They'd closed off the top balcony, but every other seat was full, so I think there must have been quite a bit over 10000 people there. And it's in this area that looks like the 1950s idea of what the 21st century would look like, all shiny curves and weird lights, so I kept looking up for the aircars that should have been zipping about over the heads of the huge crowd of people. SA had got us some really good seats, and we were just in this huge dome packed with people, all mesmerized.
I can't really describe how wonderful it was to hear Cohen live. I mean, I know that he has very poetic lyrics and a unique voice (some people hate it, but if you love it it's like nothing else), but it turns out he's also a consummate performer. He carried the audience like no-one I've ever seen, and every gesture was perfect (they had video screens showing his face and hands close up, and he does the most amazingly expressive things with his left hand), and it was impossible not to believe that he was actually expressing passion about politics, or regret over lost loves, or just general happy sexiness in a couple of the rare upbeat songs, rather than singing songs he must have performed thousands of times in the past several decades. Also, he started on time at 7:30 (so we missed the first song and a half in the time it took to get that many people into the venue), and just kept going for over three hours. There was one 15 minute break in the middle, but otherwise he didn't even pause between songs.
Every single one was transcendent, too. Bird on the wire, which I'm actually not that fond of, really caught me. And of course he had to do Who by fire, which always gets me, and a week after Yom Kippur it was almost unbearable. There were a couple of songs which are basically worn into my brain as happy feel-good songs, Suzanne and especially Hey, that's no way to say goodbye which he made absolutely fresh and really powerful. And he went straight from Hallelujah into Democracy before the audience had even had time to absorb the fact that we'd just heard the man himself singing that song. Almost every song in the set was outstandingly memorable, but the one that most broke my heart was Tower of song, which I wasn't terribly familiar with, but oh wow. There were a couple where he read the lyrics, which was powerful in a different way, Thousand kisses deep and If it be your will. He gave half a dozen encores, including So long Marianne and Famous blue raincoat, and got several well deserved standing ovations. I should note that it's quite an achievement to get a Swedish audience on their feet, because they are normally so deeply engrained with the politeness of not standing up at concerts so they don't block anyone's view.
The band were cool, I love the way he uses a mixture of instruments from all eras, mandolin, sax, electric guitars as well as keyboards and drums. The three women singers who were doing the backing were probably my least favourite part of the show, only sometimes working to enhance the songs. But one of them did a solo in Boogie street, sort of gospel style, which was very impressive even though I don't like that style very much, and even though she was sharing a stage with Leonard Cohen. And the sound system was really superlative; ok, this is not very surprising, but I'm so used to going to rock concerts where the volume is so loud that the music has to be distorted, so it was a new experience to hear every nuance and inflection of Cohen's voice as if I were sitting next to him.
Joy joy joy.